Fringe Box



Letter: Green Belt Developments Will Not Help Younger House Seekers

Published on: 9 May, 2015
Updated on: 9 May, 2015

HousingFrom Roland McKinney

Sadly, I think the rather dismal picture painted in the opinion piece: Opinion: What Does The General Election Result Mean for Guildford as Guildford’s future, could come to pass.

However, putting housing on Blackwell Farm, Wisley and Effingham Lodge Farm (one missed in the article) is at odds with the Conservatives’ promises to protect the green belt, freely given in their election publicity materials.

Without final counts it’s not possible to say definitely that the share of the vote enjoyed by the Conservatives in the local election was lower than that of Anne Milton’s in the parliamentary election, but that is how it looks.

Many different interpretations can be placed on this, but it seems likely that locally, the Conservatives were not entirely trusted, no doubt due to their proposal to “roll back the green belt”.

This was the foundation of the now dormant Draft Local Plan: very much at odds with election pledges to protect the green belt.  So voters were entitled to be puzzled by this contradiction.

Turning to the vision projected, it’s obvious that the developments listed would do nothing for the young people who campaigned for more affordable housing.  These developments will be market housing, predominantly two bedroom and above, and in the case of Wisley and Effingham, remote from the town centre.

These developments (and the housing outlined for Blackwell Farm) will not provide what is needed for Guildford’s young people, who would be much better served by housing developments in the areas of Walnut Tree Close, North Street and the station.

One of the many puzzles thrown up during the campaign was the support given to building on the green belt by vociferous young campaigners – who simply did not recognise that this would not provide any sort of solution for them.   So I suspect if the  vision comes to pass the young people of Guildford will feel betrayed.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS has an important role to play in shaping Guildford’s future, by trying to keep elected Conservatives honest by reminding readers of the pledges they made to protect the green belt during their election campaign – and by highlighting gaps that may exist between what is proposed as the local plan takes shape and what is actually needed to ensure Guildford has a vibrant future, inclusive of those young residents who need affordable housing, preferably within reach of the town centre.

Achieving this, whilst protecting our biodiversity, our heritage assets and our countryside should be a common goal for all. So please keep up your good work at The Dragon.

Share This Post

Responses to Letter: Green Belt Developments Will Not Help Younger House Seekers

  1. Jamie Cook Reply

    May 10, 2015 at 11:26 am

    Mr McKinney states: “These developments will be market housing, predominantly two bedroom and above” but quite clearly written in the dormant Draft Local Plan is a policy whereby developers will have to provide 40-45% of houses as affordable on new sites of over five homes. Why does he ignore this fact?

    He states that, “Guildford’s young people, would be much better served by housing developments in the areas of Walnut Tree Close, North Street and the station.” I have two problems with this.

    Firstly, you are suggesting that everyone should live in a town centre high-density development. I don’t think this type of housing is suitable for young families with children.

    Secondly, and more importantly, it is very easy to say build on Walnut Tree Close but it is already occupied with houses and industry so where is the space – unless you are suggesting that existing occupants be forcibly removed to make way for these high density developments, in which case where are those occupants going to go?

    I think to resolve this brownfield argument the three GGG councillors should be asked to prepare their brownfield SHLAA [Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment], for the full council’s consideration, based on say 12,000 (600 houses per year).

    Only once this has been scrutinised will we know which party has been telling porkies with their manifesto pledges.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    May 10, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Green belt or brownfield? As I am red/green colour blind I have a problem with identifying the difference – when it comes to development.

    What I see is youngsters being told they can have the world, before they can even begin to be independent. Developers, of course, just see percentage margins and houses not community and homes, and politicians of all colours make promises that they simply cannot keep.

    So we all need to step back and think, not what we or our children ‘want’ but what legacy will we leave to provide for the ‘need’ of our great grandchildren.

    We need rational thinking, how will we adjust the way we buy or convert our housing stock to our homes and communities. Building houses for investment, and then leaving them empty, has got to stop. We simply don’t have the raw materials to allow this wastage.

    we need to have a sensible conversation on our ‘Homes requirement’

    1/ Do we trash our town centres and ‘ethnically cleanse’ the old guard who have lived there for generations demolish their homes in favour of,

    2/ Sole-less boxes full of incomers or

    3/ Do we build villages on our Green fields and start ‘All new incomer communities’

    4/ Gently spread the homes need throughout our community and slightly change each community by adding new homes

    We have to have this conversation BEFORE we allocate any site for development and new Homes

    Note: I refer to ‘Homes’ not ‘houses’ for Guildford does not need houses, we need ‘homes’ and community for our great grand children. my personal preference is No 4…

  3. Caroline Reeves Reply

    May 10, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    It’s time that GGG accepted the fact that the Environment Agency have not and will not support housing on the river side of Walnut Tree Close, but they will support offices or retail.

    Walnut Tree Close is not the magic wand to solve our housing issues. The North Street redevelopment and town centre masterplan will be able to help with our housing supply, but it shouldn’t all be in the town.

    There are residents in villages who would like to see local housing developments. The key to success will be involving the residents and local ward members to provide a consensus in the discussions rather than imposing plans on them.

    Caroline Reeves is the leader of the Lib Dem group at GBC and a councillor for Friary & St Nicolas ward.

  4. Peta Malthouse Reply

    May 10, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    So why don’t we build residential over offices and retail as we have in the past? Has the environmental agency been asked?

    I understood it was CPREs [Campaign to Protect Rural England] position that there are sufficient brownfield sites. The area at Westborough and Guildford Park was once affordable housing. Now they are outbid by buy-to-let landlords creating houses in multiple occupation and stuffing them with students.

    The buy-to-let market will continue to roar away and squeeze our young people. The rents they bring in from students allow them to outbid everyone. Meanwhile the University of Surrey continue to renege on promises they have made to provide housing on site since they moved to Guildford.

    All these arguments have been rehearsed before but the preference appears to be just to let the developers make easy and generous profits by building on our precious land, the green belt.

    And so far as the worthy aim to make them build affordable housing is concerned it is and will be a failed policy. All you have to do is look at what is happening in London to see it is not working

  5. Lisa Wright Reply

    May 10, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    Well, I’ve just driven home from town along Walnut Tree Grove and most of its a dump.

    There’s a rubble site next to Nissan, an eye sore of a post office block, oodles of derelict space next to ScrewFix (who wants a screw fix there anyway?). Then there’s all the land behind the buildings you can’t see from the road. Slightly further along, acres of ground are taken up by an industrial PC World etc.

    Surely, anything within walking distance of the station should be reserved for residential homes? It would cut traffic flows, car ownership and rejuvenate a Guildford eye sore. There’s room for thousands of flats/apartments and some starter homes, with some added green space it could become the best residential area in the town.

    What’s wrong with our councillors? Do they just prefer to turn a blind eye to it?

    I notice someone’s gone to the cost and trouble of erecting a nice sculpture type flower bed next to the river. Do GBC really think this will distract the eye of the passer by from the run down mess around it?

    And since we’re on the subject of regeneration, could someone tidy up the area between the Bedford Road car park and the Friary? Perhaps have some nice pictures or adverts for the shops? The walk up the ramps and over the road are just dirty, smelly and downright offensive to the eye. Not the best welcome to our retail visitors.

  6. Lisa Wright Reply

    May 10, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    Lastly, Cllr Reeves shows the Liberal Democrats true colours here and that it’s blatantly obvious their party have no intention of protecting Blackwell Farm or anything else ‘Green’ contrary to what their candidates may have pledged in Onslow.

  7. David Smith Reply

    May 10, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    In response to Lisa Wright:

    I am absolutely delighted Caroline Reeves has spoken up – it’s exactly what everyone else in the town is thinking.

    I’d also show some respect to those already living in Walnut Tree Close. If it’s such a dump why build thousands of more homes there? Does building quantity change dump status? If so, perhaps we could re-explore building in the green belt after all since it clearly, according to your words, improves an area.

    Has anyone failed to notice Taylor Wimpey’s 177 unit scheme – Barratt Homes scheme and the new student housing near Topps? With Solum’s regeneration of the station, including hundreds of residential units, how many more flats does this road need? It’s not sustainable and are we saying that we will not build any more houses?

    Bring on appropriate greenbelt development!!!

  8. Lisa Wright Reply

    May 10, 2015 at 11:10 pm

    I did not intend to offend anyone already living in Walnut Tree Close.

    With the correct planning and distribution of the right homes along the land, the whole area can be redesigned to push traffic away from the station, especially if businesses such as the Post Office, Brewers, ScrewFix etc were to be located slightly further away from an increasingly congested area.

    I would suggest that within the regeneration of the station, the developer allows for a new road into the back of the station car park to alleviate all that traffic congestion and pollution that Has to be tolerated on a daily basis.

    Why this hasn’t already been done is unbelievable.

  9. Gordon Bridger Reply

    May 11, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    Those who claim there are no prospects of affordable housing being provided on the abandoned Wisley site have obviously not looked into the plans. The developers are offering 800 – around 40%. I would regard this as an opening bid and we could get more.

    No proposals have yet been made public for parts of Blackwell Farm but depending on how many market houses are proposed we would expect at least 40%.

    We need many more houses for a younger generation not fortunate enough to have wealthy parents. Using a tiny part of less attractive green belt seems a sensible solution.

  10. Lisa Wright Reply

    May 11, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    GBC cannot enforce any affordable housing on either of those sites. There’s a well known ‘get out clause’ that says they only have to provide them if it’s financially viable to do so.

    • Nigel Sturgess Reply

      May 17, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      In response to Lisa Wright.

      Ms Wright would be wise to review the much publicised recent refusal of an planning application concerning the Methodist Church on Woodbridge Road (ref 14/P/00998) where Guildford Borough Council refused an application on the basis of the lack of affordable/viability argument.

      The council were backed up by the appeal inspector.

      What this says to me is that if the council can challenge and win a viability argument on a brownfield site with presumably a high existing value, they are sure to win any viability argument on a greenfield site.

  11. Caroline Reeves Reply

    May 13, 2015 at 8:24 am

    The planning application for flats on the site of the church on Woodbridge Road was refused for a number of reasons, one being that they were not providing enough affordable units.

    Our [Guildford Borough Council’s] decision was upheld at appeal with a very strongly worded statement by the planning inspector on the developer’s provision of affordable units.

    Caroline Reeves is the borough councillor for Friary & St Nicolas ward

    • John Robson Reply

      May 14, 2015 at 10:48 am

      How much would these “affordable” units be priced at? Is this part of the decision making and approval process?

      Also, why will GBC only build 68 council houses in the last three years if there is a housing crisis yet manage to find £5million to refurbish the council offices and Stoke Park?

      • Adrian Atkinson Reply

        May 14, 2015 at 3:14 pm

        They haven’t built 68 in the last three years. I’m led to believe three units were completed last year (Nov 14), none before that as per Cllr Creedy’s statement on TouTube.

        19 completions I’m told have happened in 2015 and the rest are planned or have been “invested in” (land acquired/drawings done I assume) with a build out plan over the next couple of years.

        The problem of truly affordable housing, at the required rates will not be supplied by the private sector, it is not in the interests of their shareholders and that is their legal mandate to deliver, act in the best interests of their shareholders.

        This graphic shows the underlying problem quite clearly. The private sector has always built high numbers apart from the period post 2007. That is not the real issue. Even if one ignores immigration, it is the the flatline zero for the orange local authority line since the early 90’s and the steep decline since 1980 post the Conservatives Right to Buy and Housing Acts – that has caused the structural problem we are faced re affordable housing.

        Immigration and the university’s expansion (while not accommodating sufficient numbers of students0 are just exposing the issue more dramatically here in Guildford Borough.

  12. Bernard Parke Reply

    May 13, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    Does anyone actually believe that we can obtain affordable housing units within The borough when there is much more money to be made at building over priced luxury (so called) units?

    We need a new Rent Act which proved in the past to give not only security of tenure but also made homes affordable.

  13. Michael Bruton Reply

    May 15, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Ms Reeves above claims that the Environment Agency (EA) will not allow/support housing in Walnut Tree Close. Strange that in so many other riverside towns and cities, that Planners and the EA have allowed such developments to go ahead.

    A good example is the large Riverside Regeneration Project by the river Avon in Bath. Bath is of course a beautiful city and a world heritage site. If she visited the City she would see a beautiful new shopping centre which has replaced the 1960’s eyesore (ugly like the Friary), three levels of car parking below ground level and an attractive new bus station built 100 yards from the railway station. All close to the river Avon.

    Would Ms Reeves publish any and all correspondence to support her claim that the EA will not support/allow housing in Walnut Tree Close. Or is it yet another urban myth we are supposed to accept?

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *